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Don’t Tell Steelers Fans Ravens ‘Team To Beat’
Despite taking more hits than most any NFL franchise in free agency so far, AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley still believes the Ravens are the “team to beat” in the division.
But don’t tell Steelers fans that.
“Do you realize how much you stirred up with your article this morning about ‘The Team to Beat?’” fan J Van Ollefen asked Hensley. “If you haven’t looked yet, I would check it out. If you need more proof that the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is the fiercest, then there you go.
“Also why are the Steelers not the team to beat? We lost a lot less in free agency than the Ravens and we would have won the division had it not been for one or two key injuries.”
Hensley argued that Pittsburgh has also lost their share of veteran leadership and have injury concerns at both the running back and nose tackle positions.
But more importantly, Hensley points to the fact the Ravens swept the division last year, went to the AFC championship and have a history that proves they can replace lost players.
“I think that answers your question,” Hensley told the Steelers fan.
The Ravens lost five players (three starters) to the market,including Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs, starting linebacker Jarret Johnson, starting defensive end Cory Redding and backup safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski.
But Hensley says the Ravens’ situation last year – releasing Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg and losing Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr to injury – was “far more dire.”
“The Ravens are more like a college team than an NFL one in how they handle personnel,” wrote Hensley. “When they lose someone in free agency, they act like the player graduated and they plug in another one of General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s recruits, eh, I mean draft picks. …
“It’s been a rough start to free agency for the Ravens. But they’re used to it by now. They lose in March and win in January. Until that track record changes, it’s tough to bet against them.”
Konz Not A 1st-Rounder
By far the most popular first-round pick for the Ravens in mock drafts has been Wisconsin center Peter Konz.
Pundits believe he could be the long-term answer at center after Matt Birk retires and the short-term solution at left guard since Grubbs left for New Orleans.
ESPN’s draft guru Todd McShay is blowing that theory out of the water, saying Konz isn’t worth a first-round selection. In his latest mock draft, McShay advocates the Ravens taking Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith at No. 29.
“With no offensive lineman worth drafting, fast-rising Smith is a good value pick who could provide long-term security at safety with the clock ticking on Ed Reed,” wrote McShay. “The Ravens also could consider a defensive tackle such as Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes at this spot.”
McShay doesn’t have Konz coming off the board until the second round at pick No. 48 to the New England Patriots.
Jacobs Off Ravens’ List
Brandon Jacobs is officially off the Ravens’ list of potential free agents to sign.
A day after Head Coach John Harbaugh said the former New York Giants running back was on the team’s list, Jacobs signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
In all reality though, Harbaugh was just responding to a reporter’s question and there was nothing to indicate the Ravens had serious interest in Jacobs.
The Ravens currently have Ray Rice, Anthony Allen and Damien Berry on the roster. Rice, who has been assigned a one-year franchise tag, could decide to hold out during training camp if he and the team can’t agree to a long-term deal before then.
“We’ve got to look at some insurance, too. We’ve got to have more than two running backs on our roster so we’ll add some guys,” Harbaugh explained.
If that insurance policy is to come from the free-agent market, there are still a number of candidates left, including Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, Jackie Battle, Ryan Grant and Cadillac Williams.
Benson (29 years old): “Carried a heavy load in Cincinnati in 2011, gaining 1,067 yards, and is familiar with the AFC North, having had some big games against the Ravens. But his 3.8 career yards-per-carry average is a mark against him.”
Addai (28): “Hasn’t gained a thousand yards in a season since 2007. But the Ravens don’t need that much from him. Like Benson, he has averaged well under four yards per carry since 2008.”
Battle(28): “Had something of a breakout season in Kansas City in 2011, rushing for 597 yards as a part-timer. But he had barely played in his four years in the NFL before that.”
Grant (29): “Made 14 starts and rushed for 599 yards in Green Bay last season. He has over 4,000 career rushing yards and can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
Williams (29): “Has piled more than 5,000 rushing and receiving yards in seven NFL seasons while never living up to the hype that shadowed him as his career began. He didn’t play much for the Rams in 2011.”
Doss Hoping To Fill No. 3 WR Role
There’s an opening for the No. 3 receiver role, and Tandon Doss knows this could be his opportunity to seize it.
The second-year product out of Indiana is aware there will be plenty of competition for the spot, including the possibility of another rookie from the draft, but he’s hoping he make a case for it.
“I feel like they’re going to be a lot more confident in me and my ability this year just having a year under my belt and getting a little playing time last year,” Doss told WNST.
“Hopefully I can step in if that’s a role they need me to fill. Hopefully I can make plays for the Ravens this season.”
The 2000 Ravens are still defying all odds. The Super-Bowl winning unit pulled out a victory over the 1984 world championSan Francisco 49ers in the “Greatest Team of All Time” contest. You have untiltomorrow,March 30 to vote for the Ravens in the championship vs. the 1976 Oakland Raiders. [NFL.com]
What are the chances of Rice and Joe Flacco both signing new deals before the season? “Not so good,” wrote Hensley. “I see the Ravens getting a new deal done with Flacco before training camp. My guess is sometime in July. The focus will turn to Rice, but I don’t think they will sign him before the season. I don’t rule it out. I think the odds are against it.” [ESPN]
And the chances of the Ravens losing restricted free agent Lardarius Webb, who has been assigned a first-round tender? “There’s always a chance that Webb could go somewhere. I think it’s a very slim chance of happening. I see Webb with the Ravens in 2012.” [ESPN]
Rice is the only AFC North player still standing in the “Madden 13″ cover vote. He now faces a heavy favorite in Saints quarterback Drew Brees. If you don’t believe in the “Madden curse,” you have until April 4 to vote for Rice. [ESPN]
AnquanBoldin: Finished Day 2 in Ethiopia. It’s rough out here but still opportunity. Even w/ food crisis the people are strong and hopeful. [Twitter]
Nike is suing Rebook for the “unauthorized use of Tim Tebow’s name on New York Jets related apparel.” A judge has granted Nike a temporary restraining order against Reebok that forces the company to recall all it has sold. [FoxSports.com]